iPads, and Netbooks, and Chromebooks! Oh My!

Posted by Will Kimbley on November 3, 2013

Netbook, iPad, and Chromebook

The times they are a-changin’. Previously, there have been haves and have-nots with regard to the presence of technology in education. Now, the demands of the Common Core, and their attendant Smarter Balanced assessments, dictate that schools provide technology tools for students.  In California, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s soon to be released ed-tech blueprint says the goal is 1:1 devices for everyone. So, how do we meet that goal? What devices do we purchase, and why?

We have seen a number of districts roll out one-size-fits-all solutions. It sounds a little like the Oprah show: “You’re getting an iPad, you’re getting an iPad!”  But is that the best decision? What are the key factors to consider?

One of the primary considerations is the Smarter Balanced assessments. There are requirements that whatever technology is purchased meets a set of minimum specifications, e.g. 10 inch screen, 1024 x 768 resolution, keyboard, as well as certain operating systems (click here for complete information).

Besides the new assessments, there are other considerations.  Cost, of course, is a big one. How much money do you have to make the purchase? What about sustainability? What is the life of the device? Which devices are easiest to manage? All of these are important, but they neglect one of the biggest factors that often gets overlooked: the classroom.

The decision-making process must include how the device will be used in the classroom. The mobility of tablets is great for science classrooms and allows students to do science.  What about a class where the primary use will be word processing? Then an iPad or Android tablet may not be the best solution. What about Chromebooks? They work great with Google Drive and web based applications and you can’t beat the price. You can get two Chromebooks for the price of one iPad, and you don’t have to purchase an additional keyboard. But if you need to install software, then you’ll need a different device. Netbooks are another possible solution, but they tend to have slower processors and have a difficult time running large operating systems such as Windows.

The reality is there is no single device solution that will cover all your needs. While a single device type may be easier to manage, you should consider a variety of devices. Talk to teachers who are already using devices in the classroom. Find out what devices they prefer. Pilot a variety of devices with teachers of various skill levels. Survey students to find out what they prefer to use. Weigh the pros and cons of the various devices and how they will be used. There is no perfect solution, and no way to make a good snap decision. Whichever devices you choose will require careful consideration and planning.

 

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One-to-Anything: Being Technologically Faithful

Posted by Jim Yeager on August 29, 2012

The letters NEW on springsA friend of mine called this week to see what I thought about my new Nexus 7 tablet.  My quick answer? “I love it!”  When we started talking about the Nexus 7 in schools, I gave a little more thoughtful reply:  “Would I trade my 200 iPads for 500 Nexus 7s?  Yes, in a second.”

The problem with my enthusiasm is that I am always ready to trade my previous favorite for next year’s new and better idea. In fact, it may not even be a year before Apple makes their own 7-inch iPad.  (They won’t dare call it an Ipad will they?)   What if the next Kindle offers a student-friendly device at an even more attractive price?  School leaders who make hardware purchases based solely on the “coolness” of the hardware may experience a severe case of buyer’s remorse.

When our fickle nature concerning educational technology hardware shows itself, I call it being “technologically unfaithful.”  We have a relationship with an attractive device.  We swear loyalty to.  Yet our faithfulness lasts only until the next cool innovation turns our heads.

What does this mean for technology leaders—and those administrators who write the checks to buy the stuff those leaders recommend?  It means that we have to refocus on student skills rather than hardware.

The Common Core Standards will require students to do what they know.  The National Educational Technology Standards for Students place the emphasis squarely on skills.  The new assessments we are so concerned about will not be device specific, nor require students to utilize a collection of apps to prove competence.  The new core curriculum will ask students to collaborate, think critically, and be creative.  Such skills are well served by technology, but not dependent on specific tools.

My new suggestion for the schools I work with is to adopt a “one-to-anything” approach.  Utilizing Web 2.0 tools, cloud-based resources, and a varied selection of hardware solutions, we can help students learn and practice common technology skills on whatever hardware they encounter.  For example, at Two Rivers School District we have wired labs, laptop labs, mobile netbook labs, Chromebook labs, and iPad labs.  Next, we’ll add a Nexus 7 lab.

The point is to focus on student skills that will enable our students to create, evaluate, and collaborate, regardless of the hardware they encounter. Our goal is technology-skilled students who will be able to use technology tools to perform relevant tasks, not operate specific devices.  After all, the next greatest thing is right around the corner.

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Keeping Our Netbooks…for now!

Posted by Jim Yeager on February 14, 2011

As my iPad and I get more acquainted, I find myself analyzing its place in my instructional technology program.  For example, one of the cornerstones of our program is a modified 1-to-1 netbook project with fourth grade.  We utilize a toolbox that consists of a word processor, a presentation application, a spreadsheet, and the Internet.  A typical activity will call for the students to brainstorm in their word processor, create a presentation, and work with some data.  Often they do simple research or get their instructions from the Internet.

My teachers utilize shared learning spaces to share assignments, links, and prompts.  Many times students share documents with classmates and the teacher.  These fourth graders have become amazingly proficient with Google Docs and can manage several applications at one time.  My teachers and I can readily create tasks that not only address content standards, but offer connections to NETS standards as well.

For personal use, the iPad is my favorite information consumption device.  I keep it handy for tasks that range from educational research to Angry Birds.  I could see it replacing our textbooks, but at the moment, I can’t see replacing my $300 netbooks for our projects that call for student-directed research, collaboration, and creativity.  For now, I’ll wait and see what the next generation iPad, or its competitor, has to offer.

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On the horns of a dilemma

Posted by Michael Simkins on November 22, 2010

Even in the Age of Technology, I don’t think we can have it both ways.

Back in the Iron Age, when I was teaching 5th grade, my class found itself stuck on the horns of a difficult dilemma.  We’d had two school-wide assemblies in one week.  The first told us what to do in case of an earthquake: sleep with your bedroom door open; you don’t want it jammed if you have to get out.  A few days later, a fire marshal instructed us in no uncertain terms to sleep with our bedroom doors closed; keep the smoke and fire out as long as possible.

Of course, on returning to the classroom, the immediate question was,  “Mr. Simkins, what should we do?  We can’t sleep with the door open and closed at the same time?”  As good as it was, my teacher preparation program did not prepare me to arbitrate between the civil defense authorities and the fire department.  I was at a loss to know how to respond.

Moving to the realm of educational technology, two recent experiences left me similarly perplexed.  First, I read an advertisement about a wonderful “pen” that records sound.  Among the many benefits of this device, I’m told, is that students no longer need to bother themselves taking notes during a lecture.  Now they can devote their entire attention to what the professor or teacher is saying.  Subsequently, I participated in an online seminar where I was told I should encourage students to backchannel during a lecture—that is,  exchange text messages with other students in the class.

Hello?

As a student, I’m supposed to use the recording pen to enable me to devote my undivided attention to what’s being presented in class and, at the same time, use my cellphone, smartphone, netbook, laptop—whatever—to engage in a side conversation with my buds, er, I mean,  fellow students.

Is it just me, or do you, too, see a problem here?

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